Hawaii : Must Do

Our Hawaii Must Do List

We had a bloody wonderful time in Hawaii. It was our first international holiday with the boys, and surprisingly, it went pretty flawlessly. We had plenty of sensational recommendations of things to do and places to go, and I made sure I was hacked up to the eyeballs for smooth sailing on the flight, as well as the holiday. Read on for our must do suggestions and then jump over to my sister blog to read my tips for travelling with kiddos.


We stayed at Ilikai Hotel in the condo apartment side and booked through Waikiki Beach Rentals. We found them to be very affordable, and while the hotel isn't on the main beach, it was a 10 minute trolley ride or a 30 minute walk to the main strip. Our end had the beautiful lagoon, the marina, plenty of places to eat and a 5 minute walk from Ala Moana shopping centre. We absolutely loved it there, it was easy to book and easy to find, had all the necessities in the lobby including a coffee shop, general store (ABC Store) and a restaurant. It had two pools, one on level 2 specifically for kids - shallow, shaded and not inviting for adults at all and another on the ground floor which was deeper, perfect for sunbaking and a stone's throw from the beach. We could not recommend our accomodation enough, especially as we are a family and value things like a fridge, microwave, iron and cupboard storage. It ticked all our boxes!


Duke Kahanamoku Lagoon - a magic kid friendly lagoon up the west end of Waikiki. It was conveniently located right in front of our hotel, so we spent a lot of time there. If the beach is too rocky underfoot, the lagoon is your go to. It was clean, warm & fabulous for kiddos. You can hire paddle boats, canoes, stand up paddle boards or bring your own huge floatie to relax on. No waves, plenty of schools of harmless fish and so much space to frolic, sunbake & bask in the glorious hawaii sun.

Main Beach - the main beach is the place to be! Plenty of our family stayed in hotels right in the heart of Waikiki so they spent a bunch of time under rented umbrellas and sharing the shore with a million other beach lovers. It's one of the busiest beaches from what I could gather, but iconic and buzzing so definitely worth a visit. If you stay at one of the fronting hotels like the Outrigger, then you can rent umbrellas as a guest. Otherwise, they have independent kiosks to nab one for around $10usd an hour.

The iconic Ala Moana Shops

A little visit to Main Beach

Half way up Diamond Head

Ala Moana Shops - look i'll be honest, I am not a shopper, but I knew this was a must see. I didn't bother taking the boys as I wasn't keen to drag them around the 250 shops over about 4 or 5 levels. The stores are divine, all the favourite brands and the centre itself is heaven - plenty of beautiful greenery, open spaces to sit, relax and take a break and dining options coming out your ears. If you go - you MUST have the Pina Colada smoothie from Jamba Juice. Orgasmic! Definitely worth a visit if you love a little spending or even just to have a little look-see.

Diamond Head Walk - this might be my most favourite thing we did! I am not a huge hiker/bushwalker/exerciser (ha!) but this was unbelievable. Diamond Head is a dormant volcano that thousands of locals and tourists climb each year. We had a car and it took us maybe 20 minutes to get to the parking lot at the base of the mountain. We took both boys, a backpack of snacks, double water for each, hats, sunnies and suncreened up to our eyeballs. Once you pass through the tunnel, it will cost you $1 per person to walk through the gates or $5 per car. We tried to get a park at the crater carpark, but they closed it off 2 cars ahead of us, which happens all day long. They call car park full, stop cars entering and turn them all back down the hill, until a few cars leave, then those lucky cars who arrive get let in. The vicious cycle taunted us as we arrived on foot 20 minutes later after being turned away! The starting point is called Diamond Head State Park and has water, toilets, a permanent food van and plenty of lucious shade for your final collapse once completed. With both boys (Noah on shoulders) it took us 2.5 hours to do the whole walk from the base carpark and back, which included a nice little break for shaved ice once we had got back down the crater.

My biggest tips would be to ensure you're able bodied - it's not easy and some parts are narrow and rocky. There are a few short tunnels with minimal lighting, so if you're claustrophobic, that might not be something you enjoy. If you're a keen bean, you're recommended to go in the non-peak hours as peak times are chaos with so many people on the track so you can't push past easily. You must definitely try the acai bowl or pineapple juice on your return - the food van is a well oiled machine, lines move fast and orders come out in good time. Diamond Head is a must do!

North Shore Day Trip - we hired a car from a little place near our hotel. Not bloody cheap let me tell you, but worth it. We set out to do the famous loop of Oahu and after hubby got the hang of driving on the wrong side of the road, we were off. Thank frank for our inbuilt nav man because our tight arses didn't splurge for international roaming, so our go to phone maps were a no go. We started our day at the Dole Plantation which was pretty great. The line for the train was fking ridiculous with tired, hot kids, but we did it #becauseholidays! We waited over 40 minutes on top of the first 15 minutes to even get tickets. My advice would be to download their app before going and buying tickets online - that line had 2 people for every 100 in ours - rookie error. Normally I'm all over that type of shit #instantregret. Also, get there as early as you can, it opens at 9:30 but was literally crawling with people when we arrived at 9:45am. You can buy a bundle ticket for the train and the garden maze - which we did. But, if we were to do it again, we wouldn't do the maze. Probably only because we were already done with the whole place after spending an hour waiting to enjoy it. The famous Dole Whip though WAS worth the wait. The lines are unbelievable but they seem to know what they're doing there and they move reasonably quickly. Go for the whip! After the plantation we stopped in at a sweet little town called Haleiwa which was buzzing. After miraculously nabbing a park, we skipped the month long line for shaved ice and opted for probably the most expensive PB&J sandwich our kids have ever eaten. Alas #holidays. My sister ate at the Beach House and said it was lovely. After our short stay there, we hit the road - stopping off at sweet little beaches along the way to dip our feet, skim rocks and jump waves in undies (the boys not us!). We passed Pipeline beach and the famous Food Trucks #dammit which were both alive with people. My sister stopped off at Turtle Bay Resort for a sweet little dip and said it was delish. Mitch threw in a 40 minute cheeky hike up a roadside mountain that we are sure was considered trespassing #yolo. On the way home, frustratingly a few roads were closed and we couldn't make it to Manoa Falls. The traffic was terrible, so we called it a day. But, it was the best little adventure. Things we didn't do but came highly recommended were Pupukea Beach and Shark's Cove - apparently amazing places to snorkel.

Sunset Catamaran - my family all did one of the many Catamaran Cruises on Waikiki beach and had a hoot of a time. Apparently you can book the morning of and costs upwards of $25 per person. Advice from my reliable sources are to wear something you don't mind getting wet, bring drinks & take motion sickness tablets if you think you might be even the slightest bit inclined to feel unwell. (the reason me and my weak stomach couldn't even fathom the idea of going on board)

International Marketplace - a bloody gorgeous, newly renovated mall right in the heart of Waikiki. It's open air with little play spaces for little people, the most miraculous indoor forestry and more divine stores than you could poke a stick at. Powerpoints for charging, drinking fountains and free wifi - we spent a delightful chunk of time resting and recouping while the sisters shopped and seeked massages. Worth a wander if you're up that end.

Dukes - is a bloody heavenly but bustling beach front restaurant and bar. We enjoyed cocktails, sunsets and live hula dancing at this wonderful place. My cousin had his amazing reception here, right on the beach and it was magical. You must, MUST try the Mai Tais and the Lava Flows. No questions!

Tikis Grill - another iconic Oahu stomping ground with delish local food, amazing Waikiki sunset views and cocktails served in keepsake totems you can take home - cute! The friendly staff, the lanai seating and the poolside chill of it all just screams Hawaii. We loved it there, even after mum made our whole crew walk there with false expectations that it was only a 'few blocks' from our hotel. If you're up the west end, catch the damn trolley! On that note, the pink line got us to everywhere we needed for $2 each, but there are 6 other lines (colours) that get you to where ever you want to go. $2 once off trips can be bought on boarding or all day passes can be purchased online. My advice would to definitely get your head around this baby to make your travel as easy as possible.

And notes from the hubby for the blokes

Hikes - so hubby and the brother in laws ventured off on a few amazing, but death defying hikes during our visit. Before they embarked though, they strategically forgot to mention that people die on these tracks. DIE. One sign read 'Enter at your own risk' while another read 'Danger - Area Closed'. No worries mate, off ya trot!

So, when it comes to hiking in Hawaii, you'll be spoilt for choice. Mitch had a hard time choosing which ones to climb and an even harder time sitting idle waiting to hit the mountains.

The first was a crater hike, Ka'au Crater, which saw paths as narrow as half a metre lead the boys right around the ridge of the crater with steep falls either side. It was slippery and dangerous, some questionable climbs and no room to stuff up, but thankfully they all survived. Highlights along the way saw them scale magical waterfalls, relish in incredible 360' views of the whole island, and some rock scrambles and rope climbs.

The second was a sneaky, impromptu hike on our North Shore loop. Mitch read about it online and it noted how discreet and hard to find it was (read: illegal). It's called Crouching Lion and is literally a small, unsigned entrance up a steep mountain on the edge of a road. Wait, I lie, there were some signs that warned of trespassing and danger #lordy. It's on the cusp of Kahana Bay. This hike is extremely steep and loose under foot with rope and rock climbs. It's mostly unmarked but after only a 20 minute climb, the views are to die for.

The final hike hubby and my brother in law hit was the infamous Olomana 'Three Peaks' Trail. It was probably the trickiest and most dangerous of them all. It was a fair way out from the centre of Waikiki, hence the car hire. The trail starts a little indiscreetly - in that you have to walk through an exclusive golf club to find the entrance. Try not to make eye contact with the guard. The hike itself is magnificent, a real cardio workout. Plenty of rock and rope climbs topped off with vertigo-inducing views. What an incredible mountain.

The rope climbs

The view

This video shows you both the Olomana Hike & Crouching Lion hike (and the illegal Haiku Stairs - $1000 fine). Worth a watch if you or hubby are keen.

Not my cup of tea at all, but these boys had the time of their lives and raved about the experience.

Beer - much like Australia, the craft beer movement is in full swing in Hawaii. Skip past the more traditional Kona brand and dive straight into Maui Brewing Co or Lanikai Brewing. We didn't make it there, but the Yard House came highly recommended with a 250 tap beer system to power through. Happy drinking!

Some other things worth mentioning

The Hilton Hawaii puts on weekly fireworks every Friday night that get seen by thousands of people on hotel balconies and beach fronts. They are usually from 7:45pm and are awesome.. kids loved these. Heck, we all did.

Sadly, I didn't do Pearl Harbour as Mitch had already done it and scheduling just didn't allow is this time, which was sad. But my sister and her partner did a full day tour which they said was amazing. A definite must do.

We also didn't make it to the Polynesian Cultural Centre as we ran out of time, but we have heard magic things - especially for kids. Also, we would have loved to do Kualoa Ranch which is where Jurassic Park and many other films were made, but we just couldn't make it work. Plus, as you can imagine, with any super cool stuff like this, it comes at a cost. And with a family of 4, it was a little out of our price range. Next time!

Flick over now to my Travelling with Kids blog if you want any of that goodness.

Happy holidaying,

J x